Apr 13, 2023
Vegetable supply struggles to match demand after cold, rainy California winter
Demand for organic vegetables is continuing to exceed supply as the effects of a cold, rainy winter linger in California.
Casey Mills, Braga Fresh Family Farms director of sales, told Organic Produce Network that weather is depressing volume for customers in the Salinas Valley.
“The main theme playing out through this year’s spring transition is that crops in the Salinas Valley have been, on average, three to four weeks behind their anticipated harvest schedule,” Mills said. “In addition, first plantings are showing below-average yields due to adverse growing conditions.”
While most organic commodities are experiencing a strengthening in the market as winter deals come to an end, “organic and conventional markets on cauliflower, broccoli, and iceberg are currently in extreme demand-exceeds-supply positions,” Mills said. “This trend looks to continue for several weeks at least until growers get through the first few plantings of the season.”
John Amaral, sales manager for The Nunes Co. in Salinas, California, is expecting a slow, steady climb back to normal Salinas Valley volume.
“Every week for the next four weeks, we will have a bit more volume,” he said. “We have the acres to harvest, but the volume is going to be on the light side.”
With the coldest and wettest February and March on record, Amaral said, “it’s going to be through the middle of May before we work through this.”
Amaral said The Nunes Co. will move its celery production to Oxnard soon, and its lettuce production will shift from Yuma to Huron in the San Joaquin Valley.
Michael Boskovich, who handles organic sales for Boskovich Farms in Oxnard, said the company is still sourcing most of its organic production from Mexico and will continue to do so through April.
Organic kale is in decent supply, while supply and quality of organic beets have been good, Boskovich said.
The company’s organic summer program out of Oxnard will be light, he said, as crops contend with issues such as pest pressure. Boskovich said the company planting some organic crops, but water-logged fields have delayed those efforts.
In other news from OPN’s Week 15 report:
- Greenhouse volume on spring crop organic beefsteak and cluster tomatoes is out of Quebec, Canada is expected to be steady, with outstanding quality of cluster tomatoes leading to promotional opportunities. Field-grown organic grape and medley tomatoes from Florida will be promotable through April with great quality and copious supply, though organic cherry supply is tightening as the crop winds down in the region. Organic Roma tomato prices will rise in the middle of April, as quality is outstanding and availability steady. As Mexican production begins to decline, most of the organic round (beef, cluster) tomato production will be coming out of Quebec and Ontario greenhouses, and prices could begin to climb in May.
- With an industry shortage on round mangos, organic Ataulfo honey mangoes are promotable. Organic pineapple supplies from Costa Rica are steady with excellent quality.
- New crop organic red and gold potatoes are arriving out of California, while russet potatoes and mini color potatoes continue to be in a supply gap that will last through June until new crop production begins.
- Organic Cosmic Crisp Apples are in excellent promotional supply, while Envy apples supply should be steady through the end of April. Organic Kanzi apples have finished for the season.
- Organic color bell peppers remain in steady availability amid transition periods between growing regions. Supplies of green bell peppers will be tight with the end of the Florida season, and Mexican production has also become limited.
- Organic mandarins continue in excellent supply from California, while organic lemons supplies and prices are steady. Organic limes remain in tight supply with high prices because of low production yields, though prices are expected to drop next month. Minneola Tangelos are winding down their season, while the rain has limited organic grapefruit supply. Fruit is sizing extremely large, and prices are high.
- Organic asparagus, a best-seller this spring, will continue to be promotable throughout April, with outstanding quality and steady availability. Organic Brussels sprouts from Mexico will continue to have promotable volume and pricing.
- Organic Hass avocado pricing is up slightly, with some fruit harvested now exhibiting a darker color while remaining hard to firm.